Thinking the Unthinkable about Radio

"Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead." 

So says Clay Shirky in one of the finest and most widely read pieces of 2009. 

Which leads to this question: Does society need radio? 

The answer, quite clearly, is "no." 

Society doesn't need radio, society needs what radio provides. 

Society needs the comfort of our favorite songs. We need the real-time connection to our community (however we define "community"). We need to know what to wear today and whether or not school is cancelled.  We need to stay up to date or to revel in our past.  We need to be outraged and informed and soothed and amused.  We need to be told what to do in a crisis.  We need to know what's on sale and where.  And we need these things wherever we are – at home, at work, in the car, and on our hip.

These are all radio specialties, but did you notice that nowhere in that paragraph did I use the term "radio"?

As an industry, radio needs to recognize that its social currency is in what it provides, not in the manner it provides it.

Radio needs to escape radio – and get into its future.

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